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Music Reviews: Nemesea, Black Widow, The House of Capricorn, Svolk, 9 Left Dead and Neal Morse

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As the leaves change color and the days get shorter, record company minds turn to the end-of-year giving season. Below are a few of their latest offerings.

Nemesea: The Quiet Resistance

Referred to as alternative by the record company, it is far from it. This is Evanescence-style female-sung pop heavy rock. Heck, the band even take a crack at Damn Yankee’s “High Enough” and damn does it sound different but cool. The band are from the Netherlands and have been around since the early 00s. They have evolved from gothic metal to gothic pop rock.

That said, it is quality stuff played well. This is all very accessible and this release is certainly better than the last outing from Amy and Co. There are touches of Within Temptation buried therein. However, this is by far more poppy and danceable than much of that band’s output.

What is most interesting is this bunch are one of the Sellaband success stories (the site no longer exists). Getting their fans to fund their previous album in 2007 led to them getting signed to Napalm. While fans of the band might not necessarily appreciate the band losing their harder edge, this release should raise their profile.

It’s an album that will appeal to all sorts of heavy rockers, goths and electro rock fans. It is a solid release from a band clearly doing what they can to let us know why they warranted a major label release. Good stuff guaranteed to leave a smile on your face.

Black Widow: Sleeping with Demons

The band originates from the 1970s and specialize in a progressive style of heavy rock. Heavily ladened with occult references, they were under siege in the 1970s by religious groups. So heavy was the pressure from religious groups that they imploded in 1973.

This bunch sound a bit like Jethro Tull mixed with a touch of pagan metal. Tony Martin of Black Sabbath fame shows up on the subtle, non-controversial opening track “Hail Satan”. In their earliest incarnation, Black Widow were “friendly rivals” with the original version of Black Sabbath.

But this band never came close to the profile of Ozzy and Co. That is probably because while Black Sabbath went heavy, this band remained very folky. That said, on their second track the band go almost disco with their track “When Evil Touched Me”.

This band is certainly not anything like the various occult metal bands that peddle their music these music, Morbid Angel this is not. This is far more tongue in cheek with a firm aim to sound like the camp soundtracks of 70s B-movies. It’s all very ludicrous and daft, but not without its charms.

This album was over 40 years in the making. Or rather they waited 40 years to pick up where they left off. There’s very much a retro style to the music; it no doubt retains all the elements that riled their critics the first time around.

The House of Capricorn: In the Devil’s Days

They hail from New Zealand and produce very heavy doom music. Well it’s doomy stoner music that of course has a lot in common with early Black Sabbath.

This is darkly cynical but at the same time tinged with a touch of humor. It does not take itself too seriously. Although it is loosely based around the theme of a trip to hell with a meeting with the horned one, there is never a sense of an obvious concept album here.

The band are described as a cult group and its pretty obvious to see why. Not at all mainstream and for those with unique tastes in their heavy rock.

This is drone and gloom at the heaviest and most turgid. It can take an eternity to complete each song. Everything is turned down and leaden. This is sludge metal at its most impenetrable.

Certainly music for a certain type of mood or vibe; it is not for everyone. In its genre, however, this is quite a decent collection of tunes, never getting too bogged down and samey. As it shambles along you are drawn into its music morass.

Svolk: Svolk ‘em All

More stoner rock, this time from Norway. I guess the ideal time to release a stoner or doom album is right before winter sets in to Northern Hemisphere. The sub-heading for this music is calling it “bear metal”, whatever that means. It’s probably to distinguish it from all the Viking and pagan metal flowing out of Scandinavia. The tag probably works better than stoner metal it has to be said.

Any resemblance between this and the music of say The House of Capricorn reviewed above is coincidental. There is some eminently more catchy about tunes like “52”. This is not turgid collection of tunes that saps your will do anything but listen to it.

There is very much a sense of Black Label Society on the tunes therein, which is never a bad thing. Imagine Norwegian rednecks and you are getting somewhere near the vibe on here.

For a sophomore effort this is quite good. There seems to be a decent batch of ideas on here. No doubt this collection will please their growing legion of fans. Quite obviously an effort to spread their fan base via the festival crowd. You like your metal hairy and groovy then give this bunch a listen. You could do a hell of a lot worse for sure.

Neal Morse: Testimony 2

This one slipped me by for some reason. I had it for a while and never managed to get it reviewed. What triggered my getting it sorted is that Morse has just released the entire album live as part of a massive live package that I will review soon for this column. For those of you who don’t know who this guy is, he is the former lead singer for the group Spock’s Beard, who left the band to produce music closer to his beliefs.

Morse has released a series of albums of “Christian” prog, which is more overtly religious than say the hippy epicness of Yes, but nowhere near as po-faced as so-called “praise” music you see flogged on late-night TV. But at the end of the day what really matters is that this two CD set is full of great music. I mean how can resist the attraction of “Absolute Beginner” to start off the second CD?

In fact the opening track of this two CD set, “Mercy Street”, is downright Styx-like in isound. It is full on progressive pomp and is quite captivating in its outlook. This release is the second part of his autobiographical musical journey called not surprisingly Testimony.

Not that his leaving Spock’s Beard left any bad feeling, as they pop up on the song “Time Changer”. Former Dream Theater and current journeyman tub-thumper Mike Portnoy plays drums on the album. Not that it’s terribly shocking as they are both in the prog-supergroup Transatlantic. And for a bit of fun Morse makes it complicated by including Steve Morse (no relation) of Deep Purple, Kansas and Dixie Dregs fame on a 25-minute track “Seeds of Gold”.. On many of these songs there is a strong Kansas feel too.

9 Left Dead: The Wrong Things

A fairly solid debut from this bunch of young rocker whelps. Modern-sounding but with enough good ole’ heavy rock grunt, it has the possibility of appealing to all generations of rockers. There is a touch of the Sunset Strip about the tracks on here and it’s all the better for it. In fact, there is an 80s hard rock vibe seeping through many of the tracks. Check out the title track for proof. They certainly make it obvious that they are paying their respects. The fact they come from the center of the US makes it all the more impressive.

The band also have the brains not to stick around too long. On here you get 10 tracks of tight pop hard rock. It’s obviously that the band have gelled well and that is not surprising considering the touring they have done. If you want to check out an up and coming band without a touch of emo or pop punk then have a listen to this bunch. A band to keep an eye on for sure.

On that note stay safe and rocking out there…

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